From the bestselling author of Gratitude and Musicophilia, a collection of essays that displays Oliver Sacks’s passionate engagement with the most compelling ideas of human endeavor: evolution, creativity, memory, time, consciousness, and experience.
Oliver Sacks, scientist and storyteller, is beloved by readers for the extraordinary neurological case histories (Awakenings, An Anthropologist on Mars) in which he explored many now-familiar disorders—autism, Tourette syndrome, face blindness. He was also a memoirist who wrote with honesty and humor about the remarkable experiences that shaped him (Uncle Tungsten, On the Move, Gratitude). In the pieces that comprise The River of Consciousness (many first published in The New York Review of Books, among other places), Dr. Sacks takes on evolution, botany, chemistry, medicine, neuroscience, and the arts, and calls upon his great scientific and creative heroes—above all, Darwin, Freud, and William James. For Sacks, these thinkers were constant companions from an early age. The questions they explored—the meaning of evolution, the roots of creativity, and the nature of consciousness—lie at the heart of science and of this book. The River of Consciousness demonstrates Sacks’s unparalleled ability to make unexpected connections, his sheer joy in knowledge, and his unceasing, timeless endeavor to understand what makes us human.
Arthur C. Clarke - C. S. Lewis - From Narnia to a Space Odyssey
From Narnia to a Space Odyssey is a provocative account of the debate and discussion between Clarke and Lewis presenting their opposing views on technology and its effects on society in a fascinating manner, unfolding throughout their prose, both fiction and non-fiction, and through their own correspondence. Their encounter sets the stage for the dilemma we face today: Is technology the beauty that will lead us to a more utopian society, or is it the beast that endangers our humanity and spirit?
Cory Doctorow - Content
Hailed by Bruce Sterling as “a political activist, gizmo freak, junk collector, programmer, entrepreneur, and all-around Renaissance geek,” the Internet’s favorite high-tech culture maven is celebrated with the first collection of his infamous articles, essays, and polemics. Irreverently championing free speech and universal access to information—even if it’s just a free download of the newest Britney Spears MP3—he leads off with a mutinous talk given at Microsoft on digital rights management, insisting that they stop treating their customers as criminals. Readers will discover how America chose Happy Meal toys over copyright, why Facebook is taking a faceplant, how the Internet is basically just a giant Xerox machine, why Wikipedia is a poor cousin of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, and how to enjoy free e-books. Practicing what he preaches, all of the author’s books, including this one, are simultaneously released in print and on the Internet under Creative Commons licenses that encourage their reuse and sharing. He argues persuasively that this practice has considerably increased his sales by enlisting readers to promote his work. Accessible to geeks and nontechies alike, this is a timely collection from an author who effortlessly surfs the zeitgeist while always generating his own wave.
John Berger - Confabulations
'Language is a body, a living creature ... and this creature's home is the inarticulate as well as the articulate'. John Berger's work has revolutionized the way we understand visual language. In this new book he writes about language itself, and how it relates to thought, art, song, storytelling and political discourse today. Also containing Berger's own drawings, notes, memories and reflections on everything from Albert Camus to global capitalism, Confabulations takes us to what is 'true, essential and urgent'.
John Berger - The Red Tenda of Bologna
'It's an improbable city, Bologna - like one you might walk through after you have died.' A dreamlike meditation on memory, food, paintings, a fond uncle and the improbable beauty of Bologna, from the visionary thinker and art critic.
John Berger - Understanding a Photograph
John Berger's writings on photography are some of the most original of the twentieth century. This selection contains many groundbreaking essays and previously uncollected pieces written for exhibitions and catalogues in which Berger probes the work of photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and W. Eugene Smith - and the lives of those photographed - with fierce engagement, intensity and tenderness. The selection is made and introduced by Geoff Dyer, author of the award-winning The Ongoing Moment. How do we see the world around us? This is one of a number of pivotal works by creative thinkers whose writings on art, design and the media have changed our vision for ever. John Berger was born in London in 1926. His acclaimed works of both fiction and non-fiction include the seminal Ways of Seeing and the novel G., which won the Booker Prize in 1972. In 1962 he left Britain permanently, and he now lives in a small village in the French Alps. Geoff Dyer is the author of four novels and several non-fiction books. Winner of the Lannan Literary Award, the International Centre of Photography's 2006 Infinity Award and the American Academy of Arts and Letters's E. M. Forster Award, Dyer is also a regular contributor to many publications in the UK and the US. He lives in London.
Julian Barnes - Something to Declare
Eighteen witty and brilliant essays on France from Julian Barnes; Julian Barnes's long and passionate relationship with France began more than forty years ago. As sceptical observer on family motoring holidays, assistant in a school in Brittany, student of the language and literature, author of Flaubert's Parrot and Cross Channel, he has criss-crossed the country and its culture The essays collected here, written over a twenty-year period, attest to his clear eyed appreciation of the Land Without Brussels Sprouts. He ranges widely, from landscape to literature, food to Flaubert, film and song to the Tour de France. His humour, timing and intelligence never falter. When Picador published his Letters from London, the Financial Times called him 'our finest essayist'. Something to Declare confirms that judgment: it is a great literary delight.
Bertrand Russell - Sceptical Essays
'These propositions may seem mild, yet, if accepted, they would absolutely revolutionize human life.' ___With these words Bertrand Russell introduces what is indeed a revolutionary book. Taking as his starting-point the irrationality of the world, he offers by contrast something 'wildly paradoxical and subversive' - a belief that reason should determine human actions. Today, besieged as we are by the numbing onslaught of twenty-first-century capitalism, Russell's defence of scepticism and independence of mind is as timely as ever. In clear, engaging prose, he guides us through the key philosophical issues that affect our daily lives - freedom, happiness, emotions, ethics and beliefs - and offers no-nonsense advice.
David Lodge - The Practice of Writing
In this absorbing volume, David Lodge turns his incisive critical skills onto his own profession, salutes the great writers who have influenced his work, wonders about the motives of biographers, ponders the merits of creative writing courses, pulls the rug from under certain theoretical critics and throws open the curtains on his own workshop.
Kenneth Clark - The Romantic Rebellion
With his extraordinary knowledge, clarity and style Kenneth Clark discusses thirteen important artists representing one of the greatest periods in the history of art - the second half of the eighteenth century to the middle of the nineteenth century. During the second half of the eighteenth century, when the spirit of revolution was rising through Europe, a division appeared in all the arts, deeper and more radical than any that had preceded it. Rivalry arose between two schools of painting, the Romantic and the Classic. The doctrine of Classic art aspired to the ideal found in Greco-Roman antiquities; subjects were drawn from episodes in antique history or poetry that pointed a moral - acts of self-sacrifice or patriotism. Romantic art appealed to the emotions, in particular the fear and exhilaration aroused by storm, bloodshed and ferocity, so prevalent at the time. The emotional effect of a picture was heightened by color, violent light and shade and exaggerated movement, made shockingly natural - far removed from the tranquility and sculptural forms of classicism. In practice, however, the two schools overlapped. Both attached importance to subject matter and looked to the past for it. "Every great classical artist was a romantic at heart and vice versa; the distinction between them is more convenient than real," writes Kenneth Clark. To trace this "rebellion" Kenneth Clark brings into focus the artistic creativity of thirteen artists: David, Goya, Piranesi, Fuseli, Blake, Ingres, Gericault, Delacroix, Turner, Constable, Millet, Degas and Rodin - all but one successful and influential, all part of the European movement.
Diana Wynne Jones - Reflections
Diana Wynne Jones is best-known for her novels and stories - of magical fantasy - written mainly for children. She received a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2007, as well as two Mythopoeic Awards and the Guardian Fiction Award for Charmed Life. But she was also a witty, entertaining speaker, a popular guest at science fiction and fantasy conventions and an engaged, scholarly critic of writing that interested her. This collection of more than twenty-five papers, chosen by Diana herself, includes fascinating literary criticism (such as a study of narrative structure in The Lord of the Rings and a ringing endorsement of the value of learning Anglo Saxon) alongside autobiographical anecdotes about reading tours (including an account of her famous travel jinx), revelations about the origins of her books, and thoughts in general about the life of an author and the value of writing. The longest autobiographical piece, 'Something About the Author', details Diana's extraordinary childhood and is illustrated with family photographs. Reflections is essential reading for anyone interested in Diana's works, fantasy or creative writing. The collection features a foreword by Neil Gaiman and an introduction and interview by Charlie Butler, a respected expert on fantasy writing.
A. S. Byatt - Passions of the Mind
Whether she is writing about George Eliot or Sylvia Plath; Victorian spiritual malaise or Toni Morrison; mythic strands in the novels of Iris Murdoch and Saul Bellow; politics behind the popularity of Barbara Pym or the ambitions that underlie her own fiction, Byatt manages to be challenging, entertaining, and unflinchingly committed to the alliance of literature and life.
Caitlin Moran - Moranifesto
'I’ve lived through ten iOS upgrades on my Mac – and that’s just something I use to muck about on Twitter. Surely capitalism is due an upgrade or two?’ When Caitlin Moran sat down to choose her favourite pieces for her new book she realised that they all seemed to join up. Turns out, it’s the same old problems and the same old ass-hats. Then she thought of the word ‘Moranifesto’, and she knew what she had to do… This is Caitlin’s engaging and amusing rallying call for our times. Combining the best of her recent columns with lots of new writing unique to this book, Caitlin deals with topics as pressing and diverse as 1980s swearing, benefits, boarding schools, and why the internet is like a drunken toddler. And whilst never afraid to address the big issues of the day – such as Benedict Cumberbatch and duffel coats – Caitlin also makes a passionate effort to understand our 21st century society and presents us with her ‘Moranifesto’ for making the world a better place. The polite revolution starts here! Please.
Zadie Smith - Feel Free
Arranged into five sections--In the World, In the Audience, In the Gallery, On the Bookshelf, and Feel Free--this new collection poses questions we immediately recognize. What is The Social Network--and Facebook itself--really about? "It's a cruel portrait of us: 500 million sentient people entrapped in the recent careless thoughts of a Harvard sophomore." Why do we love libraries? "Well-run libraries are filled with people because what a good library offers cannot be easily found elsewhere: an indoor public space in which you do not have to buy anything in order to stay." What will we tell our granddaughters about our collective failure to address global warming? "So I might say to her, look: the thing you have to appreciate is that we'd just been through a century of relativism and deconstruction, in which we were informed that most of our fondest-held principles were either uncertain or simple wishful thinking, and in many areas of our lives we had already been asked to accept that nothing is essential and everything changes--and this had taken the fight out of us somewhat." Gathering in one place for the first time previously unpublished work, as well as already classic essays, such as, "Joy," and, "Find Your Beach," Feel Free offers a survey of important recent events in culture and politics, as well as Smith's own life. Equally at home in the world of good books and bad politics, Brooklyn-born rappers and the work of Swiss novelists, she is by turns wry, heartfelt, indignant, and incisive--and never any less than perfect company. This is literary journalism at its zenith.
George Orwell - Shooting an Elephant and Other Essays
'Shooting An Elephant' is Orwell's searing account of his experience as a police officer in imperial Burma: killing an escaped elephant in front of a crowd "solely to avoid looking a fool". The other masterly essays in this collection include classics such as 'My Country Right Or Left', 'How The Poor Die' and 'Such Were The Joys', his memoir of the horrors of public school, as well as discussions of Shakespeare, sleeping rough, boys' weeklies and a spirited defence of English cooking. Opinionated, uncompromising, provocative and hugely entertaining, all show Orwell's unique ability to get to the heart of any subject.
John Fowles - The Tree
In this series of moving recollections involving both his childhood and his work as a mature artist, John Fowles explains the impact of nature on his life and the dangers inherent in our traditional urge to categorise, to tame and ultimately to possess the landscape. This acquisitive drive leads to alienation and an antagonism to the apparent disorder and randomness of the natural world. For John Fowles the tree is the best analogue of prose fiction, symbolising the wild side of our psyche, and he stresses the importance in art of the unpredictable, the unaccountable and the intuitive. This fascinating text gives a unique insight into the author and offers the key to a true understanding of the inspiration for his work.
A. S. Byatt - On Histories and Stories: Selected Essays
In these seven essays, the British novelist Byatt examines many themes: the historical novel as created by 20th-century English writers, the relations between scholarship and the creation of fiction, the modern European novel and its debt to mythology, and how fairy tales have influenced her and other modern authors. The three chapters on serious historical literature are from the 1999 Richard Ellmann Lectures in Modern Literature that she gave at Emory University, while the section on the European novel is an expanded version of Byatt's Finzi-Contini lecture given at Yale in 1999. For Byatt fans, the best essay is "True Stories and the Facts in Fiction," which outlines how scholarly serendipity inspired her novellas Angels and Insects. Plot summaries and extensive quotations from the selected texts will give readers an appetite to read the many novels discussed in these pieces, though the general reader may feel overwhelmed by the virtuosity of Byatt's complex insights and multiple interests.
Bernard Cornwell - Waterloo
On the 18th June, 1815 the armies of France, Britain and Prussia descended upon a quiet valley south of Brussels. In the previous three days the French army had beaten the British at Quatre-Bras and the Prussians at Ligny. The Allies were in retreat. The blood-soaked battle of Waterloo would become a landmark in European history, to be examined over and again, not least because until the evening of the 18th, the French army was close to prevailing on the battlefield. Now, brought to life by the celebrated novelist Bernard Cornwell, this is the chronicle of the four days leading up to the actual battle and a thrilling hour-by-hour account of that fateful day. In his first work of non-fiction, Cornwell combines his storytelling skills with a meticulously researched history to give a riveting account of every dramatic moment, from Napoleon’s escape from Elba to the smoke and gore of the battlefields. Through letters and diaries he also sheds new light on the private thoughts of Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington, as well as the ordinary officers and soldiers.
Niall Ferguson - The Square and the Tower
Most history is about the people at the top of the towers of power. But what if the real action is in the social networks down below, in the town squares? Niall Ferguson, the international bestselling author of Empire, The Ascent of Money and Civilization, brilliantly recasts past and present as an unending contest between hierarchies and networks. 'Provocative, snappy, a rare book ... fasten your seatbelts' Peter Frankopan, Daily Telegraph 'Immensely stimulating, absorbing, illuminating ... sends ideas blazing all over the place ... one of the best popular historians of our time' David Goodhart, Prospect 'Powerful, fast-paced ... a pull-yourself-together warning to the present by way of arresting historical precedent' Andrew Anthony, Guardian 'Captivating and compelling' Jonathan A. Knee, The New York Times
Alan Watts - This Is It
In six revolutionary essays, philosopher Alan Watts explores the relationship between spiritual experience and ordinary life—and the need for them to coexist within each of us. With essays on “cosmic consciousness” (including Watts’ account of his own ventures into this inward realm); the paradoxes of self-consciousness; LSD and consciousness; and the false opposition of spirit and matter, This Is It and Other Essays on Zen and Spiritual Experience is a truly mind-opening collection.